Here Are Some Of The Best Signs From The People’s Climate March

Demonstrators gathered in Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world on Saturday for the 2017 People’s Climate March, a rally to demand political action to fight climate change.

This year’s march takes on increased significance, as it occurs on the 100th day in office of President Donald Trump. Trump has derided climate change as a “hoax” and “bullshit” and vowed to roll back regulations for the fossil fuel industries. He’s also said he would pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, a global pact to cooperate to cut greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impact of climate change. His advisers are reportedly still debating about whether the U.S. should pull out.

As people who care about the planet’s future prepared to march on Saturday, many carried funny, creative or just plain beautiful signs to amplify their voices. Here are some of our favorites.

From Bend, Oregon! #climatemarch

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Let's march #peoplesclimatemarch #climatechangeisreal #climatemarch2017 #resist

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We're off to D.C. for the People's #ClimateMarch to stand up for our planet and its people!

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Time to people's #climatemarch !!! Because there's no planet B

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Ready for #climatemarch

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#actonclimate #peoplesclimatemovement #climatemarch #climatemarchme

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The ‘Happiest Moment’ Of Quentin Tarantino’s Life Came During ‘Reservoir Dogs’

As one of America’ star directors, Quentin Tarantino has become a larger-than-life personality. He seems relentlessly cocksure today, but there was once a time when Tarantino had to prove to himself that he was capable of this whole filmmaking thing.

Given how trying it can be to forge a movie career, Tarantino had a relatively auspicious start. His first project, “Reservoir Dogs,” made him an instant up-and-comer amid the 1990s’ independent-film boom. Celebrating the crime thriller’s 25th anniversary, Tarantino reunited with Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth on Friday night for a screening and panel discussion at the Tribeca Film Festival. There, he spoke of his signature memory from the film, which doubles as the “happiest moment” of his life.

It came at the end of a two-week rehearsal period, during which the actors bonded in Los Angeles. Keitel hosted a cast dinner at the house he was renting in Malibu. Tarantino was staying with his mother in Glendale, about 40 miles away. That night, perched around Keitel’s table, he realized the dream he’d maintained since his Tennessee days as a teenage video-store clerk had real potential. Thanks to the “Reservoir Dogs” cast’s harmony, Tarantino’s career was born.

“We’re sitting there and we’re having a great time, and I really realized that, gosh, a lot of the pressure was off my shoulders cinematically,” Tarantino said. “These guys were so perfect in their parts, they were so vibing with each other, they so understood the material. By rehearsing two weeks, they knew the material. I was like, ‘Fuck, if I just keep this movie in focus, I’ve got a movie.’ Anything else I bring to it will just be frosting, but the cake is here — it’s these guys. I watched it at dinner that night. It was a really nice thing for Harvey to do. But I remember that night getting in my car and just taking that drive all the way from Malibu to Glendale, just on [Sunset Boulevard], never getting off Sunset, all the little, windy roads. And that was the happiest time of my life. That was the happiest moment of my life. This thing that I had thought about for so long — not just ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ just making movies in general — this might just work out.”

Of course, things did work out, despite projector problems and a power outage during the first “Reservoir Dogs” screening at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival. Tarantino saw it as a mark of achievement that people walked out during the scene were Mr. Blonde tortures the kidnapped police officer. The number of exits during a single screening peaked at 33, according to his count. Even Wes Craven walked out at Spain’s horror-focused Sitges Film Festival. “The guy who did ‘Last House on the Left’ walked out of my movie,” Tarantino roared. “I guess it was too tough for him.”

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If You’re Looking For A Good Time, Just Watch Tom Hanks & Bruce Springsteen Talk About Life

The excitement in the room was contagious as fans filled the Beacon Theatre in New York City on Friday evening to watch legendary actor Tom Hanks interview legendary singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen for Tribeca Talks: Storytellers

The crowd, made up of mostly middle-aged men and women, sipped on some cold beers and took photos of the empty stage, capturing the seats in which Tom and Bruce would soon to be sitting. A few minutes before showtime, former first daughter Malia Obama, alongside a friend, found her seat in the orchestra section. Then, Hanks’ wife, Rita Wilson, and Springsteen’s wife and bandmate, Patti Scialfa, walked in together with people screaming, “Patti! Woo, Patti!” She waved to the crowd as she found her seat while Wilson and Gayle King stopped to say hello and check in on Malia.

Showtime was fast approaching. 

And, soon enough, Hanks and Springsteen were introduced to stage and the crowd went wild. “BRUUUUUCCCEEE,” fans chanted, as they do at every one of his shows. Of course, Hanks made a joke about how he doesn’t understand why we “boo” The Boss, before leaping into a discussion on director Jonathan Demme and his recent death to cancer

“The strongest union of our two names is from the motion picture ‘Philadelphia,’ Hanks, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his role in the Demme-directed 1993 film about a man with AIDS, said. “God bless Jonathan Demme. We just lost him.”

Springsteen also won an Academy Award for the movie for his work on the song “Streets of Philadelphia.”

“I had some lyrics and, eventually, I just came up with that tiny little beat and the track. I figured it wasn’t what [Demme] wanted, [but] I sent it to him anyway. He sent me that opening piece of film where the camera moves slowly through Philly and I said, ‘What do you think?’ And he says, ‘Great.’ And that was it,” Springsteen explained. “Took about two days.” 

Hanks chimed in, “If you ever want to have a great moment in a motion picture, walk out the door and make sure they put on a Bruce Springsteen song.” The audience cheered yet again. 

Throughout the conversation, Hanks would weave in Springsteen lyrics ― like “My machine, she’s a dud / out stuck in the mud” ― and then request the crowd play a game of “call and response” to finish the phrase ― like “Somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.” Let’s just say true, hardcore Springsteeners were in the building.

Hanks spent the next 50 minutes or so chatting with Springsteen about a lot of what was mentioned in his recent memoir ― everything from his humble beginnings to meeting with Clive Davis and the success of the “cinematic” “Born to Run.” But what really struck a chord was Springsteen’s take on living your life and not letting it pass you by. 

We make our own little worlds. They can change the way you approach your own life, but they can’t give you a life.
Bruce Springsteen to Tom Hanks

“All artists at some point believe they can live within their art. What you learn, either quickly or painfully and slowly — what you learn is it’s just your job,” he said. “You get outside of those things in music. We make our own little worlds. They can change the way you approach your own life, but they can’t give you a life. That took me a long time to learn that lesson. Thanks Patti,” he added of his wife, “It was a tremendous struggle to me.”

Springsteen spoke about making his “own little worlds” within his music, explaining that writing lyrics is all about storytelling. 

“Basically, you tell a story to save your life,” he said. “When I was very young, I felt like I was drowning. You are not living. A writer tells a story to save his life. Three minutes of bliss and compressed living, that’s why you can get so excited in such a short period of time. It was that life or death hunger. That is what I wanted my characters to be about. Life awaits you, but taking it is a rough and tumble business.”

As for Hanks’ interpretation of all this, the actor put it simply when describing what Bruce, and his concerts, mean to his fans. 

“We will follow you into hell, sir.”

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Women In The U.S. Don’t Live In A Dystopian Hellscape. Yet.

You’d have to be fairly clueless about the current political moment not to feel a shiver of recognition watching “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the new dystopian drama on Hulu.

Based on Margaret Atwood’s bestselling novel, the show debuted Wednesday after weeks of politically fueled anticipation. The timing is apt. The action takes place in Gilead, a fictional future America that has been taken over by a fundamentalist group of men who systematically strip away women’s rights.

That description might remind viewers of President Donald Trump’s first Monday in office when, surrounded by other men, he signed off on the global gag rule ― an anti-abortion order that restricts women’s reproductive rights around the world. Or, perhaps it also brings to mind Vice President Mike Pence, who chooses not to socialize alone with women who are not his wife.

Even Trump fanatics saw the connection, calling the show anti-Trump propaganda.

But there’s plenty of reason to believe American women are not headed toward the extreme fate faced by their fictional counterparts, whose highest purpose is to serve their husbands and bear children ― and if they can’t do the latter, so-called handmaids are forced to serve as surrogates.

That’s not us. The resistance in the U.S. is very much alive and well. And in the first 100 days of the Trump administration, it’s been remarkably effective. Indeed, just last week ― under pressure from activists energized by the election ― Fox News was forced to oust longtime star news host Bill O’Reilly, who was under fire for sexually harassing women.

Other executives at the network seem to be headed for the chopping block, as well. It’s a sign that even at one of the most conservative, pro-Trump companies in the country, women are finally being heard.

Paradoxically, O’Reilly’s ouster seemed to be made possible by Trump’s election. Putting a man in office who’d been accused of sexual assault by more than a dozen women didn’t scare anyone into silence ― it sparked a massive wave of outrage, energy and activism.

So much so that Trump’s first nominee for labor secretary, Andy Puzder, was forced to withdraw his name from consideration after decades-old domestic violence allegations resurfaced.

The day after the inauguration, millions of women took to the streets in dozens of major cities around the world wearing pink pussy hats and decrying the patriarchy. The marches were largely peaceful.

There’s more: The first shot at Obamacare repeal ― which would have left so many women without health care ― didn’t work. His anti-immigration orders have been stopped by the courts, with the help of a huge number of female immigration lawyers, as New York magazine noted.

Emily’s List, the nonprofit progressive group that helps women run for office, says it has seen an “unprecedented” level in interest since November.

What is happening now in the United States is actually real progress for women. 

It’s easy to forget that up until the 1990s, it was still legal for a husband to rape his wife. Until the 1970s, a woman accusing someone of raping her wasn’t considered a reliable witness in court (a situation eerily recalled in a terrible courtroom scene in a later episode of the Hulu show). And we haven’t even noted how women’s rights are curtailed around the world. 

Of course, there’s no doubt that putting a misogynist in the Oval Office is an enormous setback. There’s not a single woman in Trump’s inner circle, aside from his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and a spokeswoman, Kellyanne Conway, who’s been recently silenced. Only 23 percent of his White House staff is female.

But he’s hardly alone. There are only 21 women who run Fortune 500 companies out of 500. Congress is 81 percent male

Despite progress, women in the U.S. still have a frighteningly long way to go. 

The overwhelming majority of married women in this country still take their husband’s names, some without questioning why. And only recently, a Republican state representative from Oklahoma referred to women as “hosts” for fetuses.

More troubling? A majority of white women voters went for Trump, an echo of “Handmaid’s Tale,” too. In the book, elite white women ― the wives of the new political leaders ― seem to be true believers in the new world. Internalized sexism is a modern-day plague.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” came out in 1985, a perfect comment for those times, when Reagan-era conservatives were working feverishly to restore “traditional” values, i.e., restricting women’s reproductive rights, demonizing single mothers (particularly ones of color) and generally making it harder for women to choose to work outside the home. The Hulu show got the green light before Trump’s candidacy turned real.

Atwood, for her part, based the book on real historical examples.

“One of my rules was that I would not put any events into the book that had not already happened in what James Joyce called the nightmare of history,” Atwood explained in the New York Times this year. She explains that she’s grounded the book and its setting in 17th century puritanical American values (remember those witch trials).

One of Atwood’s favorite signs at the Toronto women’s march read “I can’t believe I’m still holding this fucking sign,” the 77-year-old author told The New Yorker.

When asked whether her book is a prediction for our future, Atwood offers hope and a warning.

“No, it isn’t a prediction, because predicting the future isn’t really possible: There are too many variables and unforeseen possibilities,” she writes.  “Let’s say it’s an antiprediction: If this future can be described in detail, maybe it won’t happen. But such wishful thinking cannot be depended on either.”

Progress does not happen in a straight line. Setbacks are inevitable. What’s critical is what comes next.  

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Organizer Of Fyre Festival Fiasco Considers Throwing Another One Next Year

By now, you’ve probably heard the of Fyre Festival.

It was billed as a multi-weekend luxury musical festival, thrown by Ja Rule on a private island in the Bahamas. It would be sprawling with models in bikinis and social media elite. Ticket packages reportedly cost anywhere between $1,200 to up to $250,000. Yachts would somehow be involved.

The festival didn’t turn out that way. Ticket holders were met with a desolate, unorganized mess. Tents were half-made, catering served sliced bread and cheese, and headlining talent Blink 182 dropped out last minute. Guests who didn’t immediately head for the airport to escape were stranded in what some called “a disaster tent city.”

Some claimed the U.S. Embassy had to help get people home.

Now, Billy McFarland, the 25-year-old head of Fyre Fest, said he’s considering trying again next year ― to which we can’t help but wonder: This has got to be a joke, right?

In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone, McFarland, who had previously launched a sketchy credit card company aimed at millennials, attempted to explain his festival’s rise and demise. He started with the history of his bromance with Ja Rule.

“Together, we became friends and business partners,” McFarland said in the article, which was published on Friday, roughly when hundreds of people were probably scrolling through the sarcastic memes and bleak photos posted with the #FyreFestival hashtag.

Lolz ok I'm done #fyrefestival

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“We were a little ambitious,” McFarland continued. He explained that the undeveloped island had no water or sewage. By the time guests arrived, he said, a storm had ruined tents and water pipes, causing check-in delays. Then, he added, they decided to pull the plug on the event and offer refunds to guests.

“We were a little naïve in thinking for the first time we could do this ourselves,” McFarland admitted. “Next year, we will definitely start earlier. The reality is, we weren’t experienced enough to keep up.” 

McFarland even offered a tentative date for the Fyre Fest re-do: May 2018.

“Next year, we will definitely start earlier.”
Billy McFarland, on the disastrous Fyre Fest.

It’s not clear why McFarland and Ja Rule think the festival-going public will trust them again. But, for what it’s worth, McFarland seems committed to his future, hypothetical event. He even offered to donate a portion of each ticket ― $1.50 ― to the Bahamian Red Cross.

“The one change we will make is we will not try to do it ourselves,” McFarland said. “We will make sure there is infrastructure in place to support us.”

Ja Rule, for his part, apologized for the failed event and wrote on Instagram: “this is NOT MY FAULT.”

Read McFarland’s full interview with Rolling Stone here.

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Watch The Emotional Moment This Dreamer Is Surprised With A Full Scholarship

Yesica Calderon received a life-changing surprise this week.

The undocumented immigrant and senior at East Boston High School may have a 4.8 GPA, but her immigration status made it difficult for her to fulfill her dream of going to college.

That all changed when Calderon unexpectedly received a full four-year scholarship to Regis College on Tuesday. A teacher had asked her to go to a study space in the library designated for student athletes, but when Calderon opened the door she found teachers, family, classmates, her coach and the media waiting to give her the good news.

A NowThis video posted Thursday shows the moment Calderon entered the room and her emotional reaction after being given the scholarship, which was made possible thanks to both Regis College and the non-profit Boston Scholar Athletes.

“Some nights I would cry, not knowing what I would do with my future,” she told the room.

Many other schools had given Calderon very little financial aid and the high school student could not apply for government loans due to her immigration status.

“If it wasn’t for this scholarship I probably would not have been able to afford college at all,” she said, according to the Boston Globe. 

This fall Calderon is expected to join the Regis class of 2021 as a freshman, and she says she plans to study to become a social worker. 

Phillip Brangiaforte, headmaster of East Boston High School, told ABC News it was Scholar Athletes’ idea to plan the ceremony to present Calderon with the scholarship.

“We are all very happy for her,” Brangiaforte said. “She definitely deserves it, you know. Yesica is so smart and she’s such a great kid.” 

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‘The Circle’ Is A Messy Adaptation And A Feeble Addition To The Cyber-Panic Genre

The Circle” commits a terrible movie crime: It botches its own premise, coming up hollow and spineless. 

There’s no use trying to be more measured. The big-screen adaptation of Dave Eggers’ best-selling 2013 novel about a surveillance-happy internet corporation betrays stories that tackle techno-panic in our increasingly digital world. Eggers’ book is a pulpy page-turner that updates elements of 1984 and Brave New World, even if its execution isn’t as immersive or clever. In movie form, almost everything gets lost in translation. The tone isn’t alarming enough to be a thriller, nor is it witty enough to be a satire, offering no effective commentary about the breadth of our electronic footprints.

No movie should be required to preach a message, but what’s the point in depicting the ills of technology without offering a point of view? We’re talking about a genre that has always been rife with sociopolitical subtext. Think of “Minority Report,” the Philip K. Dick adaptation that asks complicated questions about free will by depicting a police state that uses technology to apprehend criminals. Take the arguable hallmark of science fiction, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and its layered story about a sentient computer that nearly robs astronauts’ ability to control their spacecraft. Even more aligned with “The Circle” are “WALL-E,” “Her” and the Season 3 opener of “Black Mirror,” three deft futuristic chronicles of tech’s effects on human communication. 

It’s especially a bummer because “The Circle” does operate on a timely, intriguing premise. But Eggers and James Ponsoldt’s screenplay is such a tonal and thematic mess that the entire endeavor becomes a waste. 

In it, Emma Watson plays Mae Holland, an office drone whose best friend gets her an interview at a hip internet company called The Circle. Virtuosic chieftain Eamon Bailey, a Steve Jobs type played by Tom Hanks, wants to make the digital sphere more connected ― devices linked, social media inescapable, everyone’s whereabouts publicly tracked at all times. Bailey’s motto is “Knowing is good, but knowing everything is better.” It’s a near-totalitarian nightmare, but you wouldn’t quite know that from the movie, which reduces descriptions of The Cicle’s intents to stiff monologues and exchanges characters for what might as well be cardboard cutouts. 

As Mae continues to work there, she becomes more and more of a convert. She joins the company’s prestigious upper ranks and watches her popularity rise in real time. That, in and of itself, is a huge concept. It invokes our addiction to social media’s instant gratification, as well as the obvious ways that enterprises like Google and Facebook are tracking our online data. But “The Circle” only poses questions ― it rarely answers them. The novel has access to characters’ interior lives. Without them, the movie is powerless. As Mae learns more about The Circle’s inner workings, the movie’s tone hardly aligns with the story’s implications. We never fully understand the Circle overlords’ motivations, and Watson’s plodding performance ensures we never fully understand Mae either.

Usually I think movies without redeeming values aren’t worth the word count. But this is different, not only because it’s an adaptation of a popular novel, but because Hollywood studios can only greenlight so many parables about our cyber destiny. That cinematic trend has its roots in the 1990s, when the internet seemed unknowable. “The Net” and “Hackers” jump-started the mini-genre in 1995, using enigmatic paranoia to fuel their narratives. Given how much more we know about the internet now, for “The Circle” to remain so toothless means Hollywood has wasted an opportunity to tell a relevant story. 

The movie’s third act finds Mae “going transparent,” which means she wears a miniature camera that turns her existence into an all-day live feed. Those who’ve read the book know this results in a character’s tragic death, an episode that rattles Mae and leaves her questioning The Circle’s conscience. In the film, her fallout is so ham-fisted and her retaliation is so broad that any inklings of a thesis statement are expunged. 

What went wrong in this adaptation? Hard to say, especially considering James Ponsoldt is known as a director to watch thanks to “The Spectacular Now” and “The End of the Tour.” He and the cast have given few interviews to promote the movie, and the marketing campaign has seemed relatively muted, even though “The Circle” is opening on more than 3,000 screens, a sum commonly reserved for blockbusters. The film’s highest-profile moment was its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday, a whole two days before it opens theatrically. That’s not a sign of faith on a studio’s part. Maybe one day we’ll know why such a promising endeavor resulted in such a disastrous product. For now, carry on with your digital activities. “The Circle” might as well convince us there’s nothing to fret.

You can be highbrow. You can be lowbrow. But can you ever just be brow? Welcome to Middlebrow, a weekly examination of pop culture. Read more here.

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Five Mothers Dress As Disney Princesses For Magical Maternity Shoot

Victor and Marie Luna, a husband-wife photography team in Texas, might have come up with the most magical maternity shoot ever.

On April 7, Victor, a photographer, and Marie, a photo editor, went to Newman’s Castle in Bellville, Texas, for a maternity shoot with five women. The theme? Disney princesses.

The couple was first inspired by the new popularity of “Beauty and the Beast” and then decided to expand their idea. 

“It started out with a Belle-inspired shoot, but as we talked about the ideas and planned it, the more we wanted to go outside of our own element,” the couple told HuffPost. “That is where the group shot of the Disney-inspired photo shoot with all the princesses came to be.”

For the shoot, the mothers (who were either previous clients or models) dressed as Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog,” Snow White, Cinderella, Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” and Jasmine from “Aladdin.” Sew Trendy Accessories, a business that makes handmade maternity gowns, provided the dresses.

Victor and Marie told HuffPost that they aligned the “beautiful mommies” with the princesses they thought they represented. They also described the shoot as “a mix of magic and chaos.”

“Between the wardrobe changes, the makeup retouches, the pee breaks, and one mommy close to giving birth, we managed to make it come together beautifully,” they said.

The couple didn’t want to dive too deep into the characters, but did add a few touches to the shoot like ribbons, headpieces and flowers to represent the princesses. For example, the mom who dressed as Cinderella held a glass slipper for some of her photos. 

The moms in the shoot were “incredibly excited” to see the final results, according to the couple, and Victor and Marie said they were happy to make the moms feel like Disney royalty for the day.

“When we noticed that a few people started to share the photos, our mommies would get in contact with us to let us know that they were famous!” they said. “It made us feel so happy that they were feeling like actual princesses.”

See more photos from the shoot below and see more work from Victor and Marie on Facebook and on their site.

H/T PopSugar

The HuffPost Parents newsletter, So You Want To Raise A Feminist, offers the latest stories and news in progressive parenting. 

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U.S. Students Are Struggling In The Arts. Donald Trump’s Budget Would Make The Problem Worse.

American teenagers are not excelling in the arts, and President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts will likely make matters worse, experts say.

The most recent results of a wide-ranging national educational assessment known as the Nation’s Report Card left significant room for improvement in the visual arts and music, the National Center for Education Statistics reported Tuesday.

Students scored an average 147 in music and 149 in visual arts on a scale of 300, dipping very slightly from 2008, when the test was last administered. A sample of 8,800 eighth-grade students from public and private schools participated in the 2016 National Assessment of American Progress, which evaluates comprehension based on a series of questions and original work. 

The NCES found students’ lack of access to arts education significantly contributed to their underwhelming scores. Students who took art classes or music lessons inside and/or outside of school, visited museums, or attended theater performances generally scored better on the test.

“If students take more courses in these areas and also have engagement [in the arts] outside of school, they tend to do better,” said Peggy Carr, the acting commissioner for the NCES.  

To illustrate the benefits of increased arts education, Carr pointed to the narrowing score gap between white and Hispanic students, whose participation in arts activities both inside and outside of school rose from 2008 to 2016 along with their scores.

But as overall scores remain stagnant, Trump is preparing to bulldoze key pathways to arts education for some of the country’s most underserved populations. His budget proposal includes axing 19 publicly funded bodies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Despite public backlash, the White House has stood by its proposed budget.

“Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore … unless we can guarantee that money will be used in a proper function,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said last month during a news briefing. “That is about as compassionate as you can get.”

For hundreds of students in Providence, Rhode Island, local nonprofit CityArts provides their only exposure to arts education. While the organization receives some funding through the NEA, the bulk of their school-based arts integration initiatives are made possible by AmeriCorps ― a civil society and service agency housed under the CNCS.

Vanessa DeNino, the director of CityArts’ AmeriCorps programs, said Trump’s budget proposal would “detrimentally impact” the number of children they can serve, likely cutting off access to arts education for more than 700 students.

Providence’s Delsesto Middle School employs just two full-time art teachers for roughly 900 students. CityArts helps fill in the gaps by installing an additional two AmeriCorps teaching artists in the classrooms.

Eliminating CNCS funding “would basically cut the number of art teachers at Delsesto Middle School in half,” said CityArts executive director Nancy Safian. “I’m really concerned about school culture. I think that when there’s a strong arts presence in a school there tends to be a more positive school climate and a bigger sense of community.”

The arts expand horizons and opportunities. They have economic value and are a cornerstone to cultural tourism.
Lydia Black, Alliance for the Arts

In fiscal year 2015, NEA grants reached every county in the country. Many state and local arts organizations depend on federal funding to sustain accessible arts programs throughout the country ― not just in major metropolitan areas.

“The people who are performing lower in rural communities are also going to be impacted because that support is being taken away from them, too,” DeNino said.

Students in the Northeast performed relatively higher than other regions of the U.S., including the South, where some of the lowest score were recorded.

Lydia Black is the executive director for the Alliance for the Arts in southwest Florida. Her organization serves Lee County, where roughly 16 percent of individuals live below poverty level, and offers a wide variety of youth arts programming, including spring, summer and winter camps. The Alliance recently received a $10,000 grant from the NEA to help fund their annual family arts festival.

“We are seeing from the top administration of the United States, the lack of interest in telling [this country’s] story,” Black said. “Most countries have a division of cultural affairs from the national level, and so the NEA really fulfills that role. I think it would be a real shame to lose the NEA’s ability to tell the story of the United States.”

Dennis Inhulsen, chief learning officer at the National Arts Education Association, worries the budget cuts could weaken American students’ competitive edge internationally.

“Students are not achieving, at least according to the assessment, as well as they should,” said Inhulsen. “You can’t say we want a well-rounded student for the 21st century in college and career readiness and then really reduce programs and offerings for kids. It makes no sense.”

“We just don’t like the idea, frankly, of children not being exposed to the arts,” Inhulsen said. “It’s just not what we could call a world-class education.”

Art advocates have noted that the NEA and NEH’s $148 million budgets account for a fraction of 1 percent of the budget, yet provide access to thousands of arts education programs as well as funding for museum exhibits and galleries, which could also bolster students’ ability to perform better on arts assessments.

Artistic ability isn’t the only area subject to improvement. Studies show how increased access to arts education can lead to better grades and higher rates of graduation and college enrollment.

Safian said her staff interviewed parents before and after their children enrolled in CityArts programming. Roughly 65 percent believed their children’s grades had improved since joining CityArts and nearly 90 percent said their children seemed happier at school.

“The fact that the parents perceive their children are doing better in school and that they are enjoying school more is significant,” Safian said.

Arts education benefits aren’t limited to academic performance; they can also positively affect behavior and decrease disciplinary referrals. Black said children who participate in Alliance’s art camps become more open-minded about diversity and other communities.

“There is a return on investment in the dollar spent [on youth arts programs],” Black said. “The arts expand horizons and opportunities. They have economic value and are a cornerstone to cultural tourism.”

“We’re not just developing artists and musicians,” Black said. “Arts can be used to solve environmental challenges. They can be used to solve conflicts. They’re a way to communicate.”

The fate of Trump’s proposed budget ― and our nation’s cultural agencies ― is now in the hands of Congress. While the House and Senate are ruled by Republicans, there has historically been bipartisan support of the NEA and NEH.

The fiscal year 2018 budget is set to take effect on Oct. 1.

How will Trump’s first 100 days impact you? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and get breaking updates on Trump’s presidency by messaging us here.

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Maddie Ziegler On Working With Sia And Hanging With Millie Bobby Brown

Maddie Ziegler came to fame as one of the breakout stars on “Dance Moms,” and continued her meteoric rise as Sia’s alter ego in the music videos for “Chandelier,” “Elastic Heart” and The Greatest.” Now, she’s taking her talents to bookshelves as the author of The Maddie Diaries, and her first feature film is due later this year.

We chatted with Maddie about her dance career, her foray into acting and what it was really like being on “Dance Moms.” 

You first came to fame on “Dance Moms.” How did you deal with being in the spotlight at such a young age?

I felt a lot of pressure because I was just a girl from Pittsburgh. Being only 8 years old and [getting] introduced into the world of TV was kind of stressful and weird. I never imagined I would be on TV. When people started coming up to me and asking for pictures, I was like, “This is so creepy! How do they know me? How do they know my name?”

What’s your favorite piece of advice you’ve ever gotten from a dance instructor?

When you’re around other dancers or you’re at a dance competition, make sure you always stay humble and set a good example for younger dancers who look up to you.

You’re obviously an incredibly talented dancer. How often do you practice?

I used to dance for six or seven hours every day. When I go home to visit, I take class Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for five hours. When I’m in L.A., there’s a bunch of open classes. During the week I’ll take an open class every day. It’s super fun ― I love taking classes. 

Sia handpicked you to be the dancer in her music videos. How did that come to be?

Sia was a fan of “Dance Moms” and she wanted to reach out to me. So she tweeted at me and said, “Hey, I would love for you to be in my music video.” I didn’t really understand the whole thing because I didn’t really know who Sia was at first. I was only 11 years old. Two weeks later, I flew to LA and did the video. I literally thought that maybe only my friends and family would see it, but nobody else. I did not think it would be something big. Then it blew up! Now there’s over a billion views.

What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about Sia?

Sia’s the funniest and goofiest person I’ve met in my entire life. Her laugh is so incredible and we can hear her laughing when she’s five rooms over. She’s so giggly. And she loves dogs. She puts on such a serious act in front of people, but she really is the giggliest person.

You were in the “Elastic Heart” music video alongside Shia LaBeouf. What was it like working with him?

He’s a crazy person, but I do love him a lot. I learned a lot from him. We had a really good experience together. I learned a lot of tricks from him, just watching him as an actor, which is cool. He was such a great person to work with.

Let’s talk about your new book, The Maddie Diaries. In it, you talk about important lessons you learned in your career. What’s one piece of wisdom you’ll never forget?

There are so many things I’ve learned throughout my career! One thing that stuck with me is what Sia told me: Make sure you’re never overworked and make sure you love what you’re doing. Also, to remember that I’m just a kid. I feel like a lot of people sometimes forget that I’m a kid, and I do want some normalcy in my life.

You’re also working on a trilogy of fictional novels for a younger audience. What can you tell us about the storyline?

It’s about dancers, which I’m so excited about. I don’t know how much I can say, but I’m really excited for people to see it. The illustrations are so cute and I really love it. I just saw the book cover and it’s so amazing. I think a lot of little girls will love it.

You have quite the devoted fan base. What’s the craziest thing a fan has ever done for you?

Of course they do it out of love, but a lot of girls make me really crazy presents. When I go to Australia, they always bring me all kinds of Australian candy and load me up on chocolate and candy. People also have seen online that I love Sour Patch Kids, so they’ll bring me Sour Patch Kids. They also know that I love Zac Efron, so they made me a full collage of Zac Efron on a blanket.  

You’ve danced with your sister Mackenzie for most of your life. Do you see more sisterly collaborations in the future?

Maybe! We’ve danced together our whole lives, and now that we left the show, we kind of went off and did our own things. Of course we’re both focused on dance, but I’ve been focusing on acting a lot, and she’s been focusing mainly on music. Maybe in the future we’ll do a little dance video together or something!

You’ve guest-starred on shows like “Pretty Little Liars” and “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn.” Your movie “The Book of Henry” comes out in June. Do you plan to do more acting?

I love acting and I want it to be a big focus for me. I don’t want it to be a one-time thing. But dancing will always come before acting. It’s my No. 1 passion and I wouldn’t be anywhere without it.

What was it like being a judge for “So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation”?

That was a really, really cool experience for me. I’m so used to being the one judged, so the fact that I was the one judging was really crazy. I learned so much from Nigel, Paula and Jason. I had such a good time, and all of those kids were so incredible and I enjoyed watching them every week. Every elimination, I would cry, because it was so sad to see them go.

You and Millie Bobby Brown are really close friends. How did you two meet?

Millie actually was a really big “Dance Moms” fan, and she came to one of the tapings of “So You Think You Can Dance.” Afterwards, she came back to my dressing room. We clicked right away. We became good friends the first time we met ― she was the sweetest person. And then I watched “Stranger Things” and I DM’ed her on Twitter and I was like, “You’re so amazing.” From there we started hanging out. And now she’s one of my best friends.

What’s a typical hangout for you guys?

When she’s in LA, I usually go over to her hotel and we’ll go swimming. We’ll go shopping, we love to eat. We just have a really good time together. She always tries to mimic my dancing, which is hilarious. I have several videos on my phone of her dancing and she always does the entrance and exit like you would in a competition. It’s so funny! 

What’s your favorite song to jam out to right now?

Make Me Cry” by Noah Cyrus.

We actually interviewed her for The Tea! ️

Really?! That’s so cool! I watched her perform at the iHeart Awards, she’s incredible.

Name one celebrity who isn’t Sia that you would love to dance for.

Beyoncé.

Who is your celebrity crush?

Zac Efron.

What was the hardest dance move for you to master?

Pirouettes.

Of all the Sia choreography you’ve done, which is your favorite?

At the moment, “The Greatest.”

What’s one thing you love to do when you’re not dancing or acting?

Painting, and doing my makeup and hair.

What’s one beauty product you cannot live without?

Concealer.

What’s your guilty pleasure snack?

The little chocolate chip muffins, “Little Bites.”

What social media app are you most addicted to?

Instagram.

Snapchat stories or Instagram stories?

Snapchat stories.

Name one celebrity who genuinely left you starstruck.

Miley Cyrus.

 

Check out more exclusive celebrity interviews with Lauren JaureguiSkai JacksonKeke PalmerNoah CyrusJustin Prentice and Rowan Blanchard.

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